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Commissioner race attracts new faces

Hyde faces challenger; says he will run for re-election

Four candidates have filed to run in the May election for a seat on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.

Three of the candidates are vying for Position 1— the seat currently filled by Earl Fisher, who announced last year that he will not run again.

YARBORJoel Yarbor of Deer Island will challenge Susan Conn of St. Helens and Margaret Magruder of Clatskanie for the position.

Yarbor, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War, previously served on the Board of Commissioners for a term in the mid 1990s. He was the third and most recent candidate to file for Position 1.

Like other candidates in the race, Yarbor cited jobs as a key concern, saying the county needs more industry. Yarbor said he sees hurdles to industrial growth.

“We’re losing all our industry,” Yarbor said. “We gotta somehow figure out how we can set up our property to make it more inviting for industry to come in.”

“A lot of your government agencies are taking up a lot of your prime properties,” he continued, noting that prior to his stint on the commission, he helped site Walmart in St. Helens and the U.S. Gypsum plant in Rainier.

Yarbor also talked of making the development process easier for builders.

“The county’s pretty tough on them,” Yarbor said.

Position 3

TARDIFNewcomer Alex Tardif is the first person to announce his bid for Position 3, currently held by Tony Hyde.

Tardif is a lifelong Scappoose resident who currently works as a tax accountant. He graduated Scappoose High School in 2005, then went on to earn a degree in accounting at University of Portland. He’s a volunteer with the Scappoose School Board Budget Committe and said he’s kept his eye on the commissioners’ race over the past five years.

Tardif said he’d like to “get the county back on track” to become a successful, industry-friendly environment that creates family-wage jobs.

“We need a wide diversity of jobs,” Tardif said. “Ninety percent of us [commute out of the county] to go to work. I think that’s ridiculous.”

The candidate said commissioners should help recruit new industry and business by marketing Columbia County and leveraging its assets such as rail, docks along the river, and the highway.

“I would focus my energy on economic development, transportation needs, parks and rec, public safety and education,” Tardif stated, expanding on his goals should he be elected. “I want to create a livable community that we can all be proud to call home. We cannot develop the programs necessary to serve this county without the right economic base to sustain it, and I do not believe that comes from special tax districts; I believe this strength of community comes from economic development and sustainability.”

HYDEHyde has yet to file for reelection, but confirmed this week that he plans to run again. He was first elected to the board in 1997 and has served ever since. Hyde reflected on the county’s needs, and its opportunities, citing economic growth as an enduring priority.

“The community’s in a really good position right now,” Hyde said of its focus on business growth. “We have very strong local economic development committees. ... I think we spent a lot of time getting ourselves in the right position and I think we’re really well situated. We just need to keep the motion going.”

Hyde serves on several local and regional economic committees. He said he’s optimistic about Columbia County’s future, but recognized the lack of well-paying jobs, as evidenced in the commuter rate.

Hyde said he’s also kept a close eye on the county’s O&C timberlands, along with its state trust forestlands, which are managed at the federal and state level, respectively. The local timber harvests generate revenue for Columbia County, but not nearly the amount they once did.

And Hyde knows it; he’s currently the president of the O&C Lands Association.

Even after serving on the board for nearly 20 years, including several stints as board chairman, Hyde said he’s not ready to leave the county political race.

“I still have the passion,” he said. “Once the passion goes away, I’ll go away. I still wake up every day impassioned about what we do.”